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Jul 26th
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Dining Reviews

Dining - Dining Reviews

Italian Village

Italian Village

The Star Bene family offers Old World hospitality with its Italian recipes

quartet of old friends discussed business and life over dinner, joined later by a woman and young boy. The table then erupted in excitement as Grandmother made her entrance. As is characteristic of European neighborhood restaurants, it was from this table that Sergio Di Sarro, an owner of Star Bene, arose to welcome us into his dining room.

On this particular mid-week evening, the back patio was empty. Inside the home, plastered walls with rounded corners were faux-painted in delicate colors, and were romantically illuminated by numerous lights. A bottle of Sangiovese, one of our favorite varietals, miraculously decorated our table, which was also stocked with crayons for adorning the clean white paper tablecloth covers.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

A Lush Cliff

A Lush Cliff

People often wait on the sidewalk in front of tiny Cliff Cafe. The photocopied and stapled menu is three pages long, and from the narrow strip of a kitchen come thoughtfully-designed and marvelously-flavored breakfast and lunch.

Thick, translucent plastic protects the brightly-colored tablecloths on just six tables. A stainless steel Metro rack holds coffee cups and a selection of children's books.

Choose from simple, wholesome Chunky Oatmeal ($4.75) with raisins or dates ($1) to filling omelets ($6.95 to $9.25) like the bacon, avocado, tomato and cheese. At 11:30 a selection of five sandwiches ($6 to $7.75) joins the lineup. Of special note are the six tofu sautés.  Neither an afterthought or a simple substitute for scrambled eggs, these dishes are designed with tofu in mind, and I noted the aroma of turmeric wafting from the kitchen from one of these masterpieces.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Light Bites

Light Bites

Around the county, happy hours offer reasonably-priced hunger-crushing snacks

I got to thinking about small plates while reading the book 'Tapas' by Joyce Goldstein. In Spain's early evenings, neighbors visit pubs to socialize and snack on proprietors' unique noshes. Hungry, I set out to sample some happy hour treats.

At Michael's on Main, happy hour beverages included selected draft beers ($3), wine ($4), signature cocktails ($5), and well drinks ($4).

From the half-priced bar menu, we started with Cuban Pulled Pork Sliders ($6). A trio of small sesame seed-studded buns was spread with spicy Mojo aioli, stuffed with cabbage and hunks of sweetly-marinated, fall-apart-tender pork, then skewered with a toothpick securing a slice of pickled jalapeno.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Tip Top Tapas

Tip Top Tapas

Tortilla Flats has been preparing gourmet Mexican cuisine for more than 30 years. The unique dinner menu at this small restaurant in the heart of Soquel Village is augmented by Tapas selections on Mondays and Tuesdays, fusing Spanish and Mexican flavors in small plates.

I was surprised by the size of the Original Margarita. It was served in a husky, multicolored, translucent glass, and flavored with orange liqueur and freshly-squeezed lime juice.

The dishes were served in succession beginning with a pair of hot house-made corn tortillas. Albóndigas ($6), or meatballs, are popular Spanish Tapas fare. Seven dense balls of velvety ground beef and veal were topped with crumbled queso fresco and a salty and spicy dark sauce seasoned with paprika.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Flying South for Brunch

Flying South for BrunchBright and lively describe both the atmosphere and food at Nuevo Southwest Grill

Weekend brunch at Nuevo Southwest Grill offers both creative south-of-the-border-themed entrées and familiar fare as well. Choices ‘From the West’ ($5.95 to $9.50) include smoked salmon served on flatbread. ‘From the South’ ($7.25 to $8.95) you might select the shredded meat Machaca.
A raised platform gives tables farthest from the large windows unobstructed light. There is a free and open feeling here, with high ceilings supported by beams. Contrasting turquoise trim adds a pleasant vibrancy. A covered patio is also available for seating, and a couple of tables by the sidewalk are filled on sunny days.
My glass of tropical iced tea ($1.75) hinted refreshingly of fruit and was always quickly refilled. In the Nuevo Scramble ($8.50), bright multicolored corn tortilla strips were mixed with Cajun sausage, cheese and three scrambled eggs to create a flavorful, but not incendiary combination. An ice cream scoop of chunky, fresh, and unblemished guacamole and salsa fresca with chipotle added a kick and even more color to this filling dish.
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Dining - Dining Reviews

Seabright Sandwiches

Seabright Sandwiches

Many a Madison Avenue Marketeer might marvel at the creatively-crafted slogan, concocted legend, classically-executed artwork, and glitzy website: but it’s the hamburgers at Betty Burgers that steal the show.

The oddly-shaped lot on the corner of Murray and Seabright has seen many businesses come and go, but Betty is blessed frequently with lines of hungry people lingering about her double doors. She also welcomes phone-in orders with a special pick-up and beverage-only line.

Promising “juicy patties and hot buns,” the streamlined menu features an assortment of hot sandwiches, each with pickles, onions, lettuce, tomato, and flavored mayonnaise-based sauces called lubes.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Fork in the Road

Fork in the Road

10 Dishes You Need to Know About
Santa Cruz County has plenty of creative diversity. But the same can be said for its culinary offerings, especially ethnic dishes. Take note of 10 that captured our interest.

Pumpkin Red Curry
What It Is: Succulent scallops plus sizeable prawns and chicken pieces are encased in a fragrant, red curry sauce featuring pumpkin and Thai basil. You will swallow any pride and lick up every last drop; like all the restaurant’s dishes, you can taste the freshness. The recipe comes from Thailand native Dee Hongmanee, who co-owns Sawasdee with her husband Bill and creates all the recipes.
Get It Here
: Sawasdee, 5050 Soquel Dr, Soquel, 462-5051

 

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Storm Watch

Storm Watch

........ In any weather, the view from Paradise Beach Grille complements the marvelously seasoned food and attentive staff

When your business depends on the Internet and the power goes out, you might as well go to lunch and enjoy Mother Nature’s show. This was the justification that brought us to Capitola’s Paradise Beach Grille in the middle of a mid-week afternoon.

The charming hostess led us across the colorful rock mosaic floor to the best seat in the house. Adjacent to the glowing fireplace and overlooking rain-swollen Soquel Creek, we were ushered into autumn by the season’s first storm.

While we were waiting for appetizers, all manner of flotsam floated and bobbed by on Class III rapids, from patio furniture and a hay bale, to branches and whole trees. We had apparently missed sighting a floating dock with attached kayaks in tow. Seagulls facing the wind hung motionless on extended wings until blown backwards by strong gusts.

The bartender delivered a large bowl of Thai-waiian Spicy Black Mussels ($15) accompanied by a mound of sticky sweet rice. The dark broth was scented with coconut and salty, sweet, spicy Thai ingredients.

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Let us Eat Cake

Let us Eat Cake

Two little girls perched atop silver stools enjoying an after-school treat. Forks full of frosting, the youngsters were admiring the handiwork of Starz Cupcakes.

Ignore the sign in the window of the bakery’s adjacent neighbor which announces the availability of Goddesswear. All good intentions will be forgotten when you see the pretty cupcake display. Colorful baking papers replace traditional accordion-like baking cups, making the rows of desserts appear as origami butterflies taking flight.

On any given day, 15 of the more than 100 cupcake flavors are available. The regular size is $2.95. All are made from scratch and contain no preservatives. Beverages include coffee drinks, juice, and regular, chocolate and nonfat milk. If you want a fancier cupcake, a variety of sprinkles are available at the counter.

 

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Dining - Dining Reviews

Downtown Oasis

Downtown Oasis

Inside and out, relaxing Center Street Grill dishes up Mediterranean style

It was a perfect October day when I settled on the tree-lined patio for lunch at the Center Street Grill in Santa Cruz. Although the sun was still warm, the autumn air, perfumed by long, pendant angel trumpet flowers, was comfortably cool. The sound of water trickling from various fountains added a touch of tranquility—just a block away from the bustling downtown.

Freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, thick with pulp, and just tart enough to jumpstart the day, foreshadowed the freshness of the meals to come and the attention to detail paid by the chefs here. Inside the restaurant, I noticed the walls at sharp angles painted soft taupe and olive separate the dining areas. Cups of crayons awaited children who would doodle on white paper tablecloth covers.

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Mars Enters Scorpio: The Nine Tests

Over the years I’ve mentioned the nine tests of Mars and Scorpio. The tests are given to everyone—unawakened, beginning to awaken, and the awakened. The purpose is to test our strength, courage, ability to adapt, discriminate and have discernment. To see if we are deceived by illusion or are “warriors triumphant, emerging from the battle.”

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of July 25

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >

 

The Maestra Returns

Cabrillo Festival’s Marin Alsop is back to ‘rock the boat of tradition’
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